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Football-themed training camp enlists ministers of education

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–More than 400 rookies, veterans and ministry hopefuls attended the football-themed 2006 Ministers of Education Training Camp Jan. 10-13 at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.

“Our churches need to see Christian educators as people who still want to learn,” said Bill Taylor, ME (ministers of education) camp organizer. “The congregation itself can tell if you are learning. We need to keep learning.”

Thus, the second annual gathering, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, aimed “to build up ME’s, to educate them and equip them.”

Whether new or experienced in Christian education, ME’s were challenged in their ministries and personal pursuits of knowledge. Attendees worked together in teams throughout the conference, participating in breakout sessions on such topics as small groups, equipping ministries, leadership development and team-building.

Guest speakers R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Neal Jeffrey, associate pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, challenged ME’s through daily “pep talks” to believe in Christ, in themselves and in their ministries.

“Everything changes when someone shows up who believes,” Jeffrey, a former NFL quarterback, said. “The greatest thing we have is the power of our belief.”

Belief is only the first step toward accomplishing God’s purpose, Jeffrey continued. Somebody has to “make a play” to demonstrate what he believes.

“The ultimate play for us is when it is time to step out of our comfort zones,” Jeffrey said. “When you step out of the boat, miracles happen. You not only discover what you can do, but you discover what God can do.

“When you get out of your comfort zone, you experience the touch of Jesus,” he added. “Every person who experienced the touch of Jesus was never the same.”


At a pre-conference “rookie camp,” 120 new ME’s received mentoring and training from ME veterans in their relationships with pastors, administrative tasks, the basics of Sunday School ministry, and how to be a leader in their families while ministering in the church.

Bryon Compton, a new minister of education at College Street Baptist Church in Walhalla, S.C., formerly served in Thailand with the International Mission Board. His son acquired a rare tropical disease that caused him to run 106-degree fevers every few weeks, which led to the Comptons returning to their native South Carolina.

Compson said the ME rookie camp was just what he needed at the outset of his ministry at College Street.

“In my work with the IMB, my main focus was outreach,” Compton said. “I am an outreach person. The rookie camp changed my life and my ministry. Talk about networking and family -– it is great to see this many ministers of education and know that I am not alone.”

Training camp attendees rejoiced during Compton’s testimony when he shared that, since beginning his ministry at College Street, his son has been fever-free.

Currie Tilley, children’s minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Durham, S.C., became a follower of Christ seven years ago and left a successful business career to enter the ministry, with a dream of one day serving as minister of education at his church.

“It was awesome to be around those who had been doing this a long time who had a heart to help the new guys,” Tilley said. “I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do as a minister of education and I received confirmation on a lot of those ideas as well as some new things.”

Tilley and his family were surprised when God called him into the ministry, considering his introverted nature and his tendency to avoid public speaking. He was especially motivated by Jeffrey, who has had a lifelong struggle with stuttering, as the former quarterback challenged training camp attendees to look past their personal struggles and handicaps to see what God can do.

“Everybody has a handicap or storm,” Jeffrey said. “The challenge is, Am I going to stop whining about my situation or see what God can do? My world changed when my attitude toward my stuttering changed. I thought, ‘Surely God is bigger than my stutter.’”


Two days before the official ME Training Camp began, 42 Hispanic ME’s had their own training camp in Spanish.

Ramon and Rosa Martinez, originally from Cuba, expressed excitement at what God is doing among the Hispanic population in the United States.

“There is a wonderful movement God is bringing about among Hispanics,” Ramon Martinez said. “My dream is to have ministers of education in every language congregation.”

The Hispanic ME’s have already seen church growth as a result of the knowledge shared through the training camp.

“When I attended the ME training camp last year, we had 20 people coming to our church,” said Pilar Alfaro of Cherryville, N.C. “After attending the boot camp and putting into effect the strategies I learned, we now have 120 people coming. We even held our first Vacation Bible School last year.”

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  • Jenny Rice